All Around Ubuyama: A Guide To My Corner Of Aso

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This entry marks the end of my life in Ubuyama-mura, and so I am retiring my old banner for a new one. I think it is a good image for the blog up until now, but it is time to move on and to start afresh.
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I have been meaning on posting pictures from all around Ubuyama with the purpose of making my own guide to the village for a long time, and today I finally sat down and did it.
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I was pleasantly surprised to find that the great majority of signs in my village are labeled in Japanese and English. I do wish that they kept the sign as “Pubic Office” for the picture’s sake.
Ubuyama is a really small village with a population under 1,800 and falling. There just aren’t an abundance of jobs and young people tend to move out of the village in pursuit of employment, relationships (there just aren’t many young people around), or entertainment. Lacking these staples of life, many would ask “Why would you choose to live in some place so remote?”. Well, I can tell you that the reason why I stayed 2 years were for the children, the natural setting, and being in the center of Kyushu. I loved teaching here because the younger children were so enthusiastic about learning and because I felt that I was making a difference in their lives.
I enjoyed teaching at middle school too, but I didn’t get to set curriculum and the students tended to lose their enthusiasm for English due to the radical change in lessons. From nursery school until elementary, the lessons were full of games and conversational English, but from their first day in junior high school without any transitional period, they were pushed to learn by rote memorization and much of the fun and spontaneity instantly vanished. Luckily, some of the kids retained their interest, and I tried to keep their attention by making unconventional lessons and incorporating games whenever I had the opportunity.
But this post isn’t supposed to be about my teaching experiences, it’s about introducing Ubuyama from my perspective. For this, I will examine the village as a whole and then break down Ubuyama into three main areas: Hokubu (Northern Ubuyama), Yamaga (Central Ubuyama), and Nambu (Southern Ubuyama).

Continue reading All Around Ubuyama: A Guide To My Corner Of Aso

Bomb Has Been Planted

Sometimes in real life I slip into FPS mode, where I methodically search the environment for targets to engage. This usually switches on when I am walking down a dark hallway or alley. Luckily, no one has jumped out at me so I haven’t had to shank them with my keys(and hopefully I never will have to do so).
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Why do they use the term “dust box” instead of “trash/garbage can”?
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The restrooms at Daikanbo provide CTs (counter-terrorists) with the schematics to perform a hostage rescue, should the need ever arise.

Civic

My car has served me well during our last two years together. Without my Civic, I would have gone insane. It performed well in hot weather (albeit without air conditioning in the Kyushu heat), the pouring rain, and on snow-covered, icy roads. We have travelled the Milk Road countless times, and have discovered places that few people will ever see. I will truly miss it, and will remember it as fondly as my Legend from back home.
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When I got the car, it had 160000 km on it. During two years, I put about 35,000 on it without any major problems. After owning two cars made by Honda and driving them in all conditions, I have nothing but good things to say about them.
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Here’s to two years of adventures and almost 200,000km.

All The Little Live Things

Living and traveling around Kyushu, I saw all sorts of strange, beautiful, disgusting, and fascinating creatures. Here are a few that I encountered in my last few weeks around.
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A butterfly at Daikanbo. On this day, the clouds were sweeping up and over the caldera toward Kuju.
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This spider wove a white zig-zag pattern into its web. I think that some species do this so that birds and other larger creatures don’t run into their webs (supposedly insects are still oblivious to it). Also taken at Daikanbo in Northern Aso.
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I have found that bees are easily photographed because they stay put until they’re finished collecting nectar and pollen. This was taken at Higothai Koen in the Hokubu region of Ubuyama.
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This phesant’s face reminds me of some early Japanese anime series whose name I cannot remember. I took this picture at the Kumamoto Zoological and Botanical Park in Kumamoto, near Suizenji Park.
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Japanese Zoos make me sad. I don’t want to visit them because the animals are often in a pitiful state. If you notice, the polar bear has a GREEN coat. That’s from algae growing in it’s fur. I have also witnessed a fuzzy green crocodile and a green hippopotimus in the Beppu zoo. If you can’t take care of an animal properly, then you should not be allowed to keep them. No exceptions.
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Kuniko and I spent an hour playing with this turtle in Suizenji Koen. It would rush over whenever we tossed pebbles in the pond, and it was fun making it swim back and forth and in circles. When we went to see sumo, we spotted another turtle next to the road. I picked it up and shotputted it, and it made a satisfying ker-plunk, disappearing among the water lillies.
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This was a toad that Joe found at a small neighborhood matsuri in Kyokushi. He gave it to his kids and they killed it in about 15 minutes. Oh well, I hope they had fun squishing it.

Higothai Koen Pics

Earlier, I erroneously posted a thistle that I thought to be the village flower of Ubuyama called the Higothai. These are pictures of the real flower, which should right now be coming into full bloom. The first two were taken in the Hokubu region of Ubuyama and the last one was at Daikanbo on the Northern section of the rim of the Aso Caldera.
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R&R on Monster Island

I saw Ubuyama for the last time (for now, anyways) on Monday, and had the good fortune of running into various people who have always been kind to me, as well as some students as I handed over the keys to my Civic. As I drove out of the village with Kaori, I felt good because it was finally my time to pass the torch and to move on. The next two days were well spent with Kaori and Kikuko, as we got to catch up on all that has happened since we parted ways in April. Yesterday, we took Jane along with us to a beautiful wide river, which ran shallowly along a flat bed of basalt, carved into pools and slides since it was first spewed out of the bowels of the Earth so long ago. I got to go back with Kaori and meet her parents (the Iwaki’s) and was seen off from their house with the huge fireworks of a distant matsuri bursting in the distance. Kaori and Asuka saw me off last night at the Kotsu-center. I was glad to be seen off by people who genuinely wanted to see me off, instead of by people who felt obligated to do so.
I listened to The Tipping Point (the Roots prove once again that they ARE the ultimate) and thumbed through some Louis Lamour as I passed the Shimotori and Denshadori, heading out on the 57 to the Higashi bypass. The bus was small and had no toilet, and the big chubby guy sitting next to me took up all of his seat, as well as 1/4th of mine. That dude snored, coughed, tossed in his sleep, and insisted on sitting in the lotus position, making it hard for me to even fit into mine. Thank goodness for Bob Marley, or I would have never have fallen asleep. The bus driver who took me to Awaji station from Sannomiya was a cool guy who got excited when he found out that we were both in a kind of brotherhood- both of us Kyushu danshi (men of Kyushu). Make no mistake about it, I want to live in Kansai for a little while, but I have a great love of Kyushu- especially Kumamoto and Saga. My only regret is not finding the time to visit our relatives out in Karatsu, but I will return.
The moment I stepped into Justin’s house, I headed for the computer. Being without my own rig for three weeks and depending on guerilla tactics to access the internet had made my email accounts clog up, let my knowledge of current events go the way of Robison Crusoe on Mars, and made me feel lost in general. The fiber optic connection and array of all sorts of toys (Pioneer DJ sound system, Doom III, Sky Perfect sattelite tv, an air conditioner, western-style toilet, etc…) has put me at ease, and signals that my time in Ubuyama has really come to an end! I will really miss those kids, and hope that our paths do cross in the future… Maybe one of you will be able to understand the words that I have typed here one day.
So here are the plans for Adam in the immediate future:
1. sleep off the fatigue of being my successor’s supervisor and the other issues of the past three weeks.
2. go to the beach and possibly go swimming.
3. find a new job, apartment, and get set up (thanks to Justin, Nam, Taro et. al. in advance for their much needed help and support).
4. secure tickets to see the Roots in September.
5. make goals for this year (what I want to do, where I want to go, what I want to study, long-term plans, etc…).
6. start a new blog.
7. take a shower, shave off four days of stubble, and make my physical appearance more presentable.
8. redeem Nam’s free Fish McDipper coupons despite my fear of nuggetized fish product.
Many people made my exit from Kumamoto transition go more smoothly, and I just want to take some time to thank the Takahashi family (especially Aiko), Nonaka sensei, Matt, Danny(the lucky bastard got the once in a lifetime chance to spar with Royce Gracie at a jiu-jitsu seminar in Oita city), Joe(who is getting his divemaster’s license in Thailand right now), Kaori(my biyatch), Kikuko and the Nakayama family, the Otsuka family(Kyokushi beef rocks!), Hieda sensei, Kuniko-chan, and especially my family who is always there for me, without exception. I truly don’t know what I would have done without you.
Now, about that shower…